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Chapter 19

      Jeremy was in the Engineering office with Thuruk, Danil, Hosmelt and Jufdet, talking after their shift, when the kelsirian entered. He was about Jeremy's height, gold fur with black stripes, and with a leg in a brace. He looked around, scolding.

      "Alix!" Thuruk exclaimed, and everyone stood. "You're out of med bay." Jeremy looked at the other four, and stood too.

      Alix grunted, and stepped to the window looking out onto engineering. He looked down at the techs working there, and then moved to the terminal. He entered a few commands, looked at the results, and then at Jeremy.

      Jeremy extended a hand. "Hi. I'm Jeremy. I did the repairs on th generator."

      The kelsirian snorted, and looked back at the screen, entering more commands. Surprised at the gesture, Jeremy looked at his friends, who all wore a worried look.

      "What did you do to my generator?" Alix demanded.

      "I repaired it."

      "You call that repairing? We're not even getting eighty percent of the normal output."

      "Excuse me?" Jeremy glared at him, "but when I started working on it I didn't know how it was built. I had to learn as I went."

      "It shows," Alix said with derision.

      "What the hell is that suppose to mean?" Jeremy couldn't believe the gall of him. "You should be thanking me."

      "Thanking you? For what? The botched work you call repairs"

      "Hey! I did the fucking best I could. I'm not the one who blew the thing up. You should be thanking me. If it wasn't for my work we'd still be limping along."

      Alix glared at him.

      Thuruk grabbed Jeremy by the arm, and pulled him toward the door. "We'll leave you to it, Alix. Our work's done, so we're off to eat."

      Alix grunted and turned back to the screens.

      They walked in silence for a moment, Jeremy fuming. How could that guy call his work botched. It worked fine. So what if it wasn't up to a hundred percent yet. He'd have gotten it there in time.

      "You have to forgive Alix," Hosmlet said. "He always gets cranky when someone else works on his generator."

      Jeremy stopped in his track.

      "Do you remember how it got when they did the refit, two years ago?" Thuruk said.

      "Gods," Danil answered, laughing. "He was fuming the entire time, always getting under foot, telling them how to do their job. If the captain hadn't forced him off the ship, I'm sure someone would have decked him."

      How could he have done that? Jeremy asked himself, he couldn't believe that he'd lost his temper, like that.

      "Jeremy, are you okay?" Thuruk said, once he realized they had left him behind.

      "You guys go ahead," Jeremy said, turning around. "I'll join you. I have to do something first." He walked back to the engineering office, without waiting for their reply. He almost opened the door when he reached it, but stopped himself. Instead, he buzzed it.

      "Come in," Alix said, and Jeremy entered. The kelsirian looked at him, frowned and went back to the screen. "What do you want?"

      "I'm sorry I lost my temper." Jeremy said, and Alix looked at him, tilting his head after a moment. "It's your generator, you have the right to judge the quality of the work as you see fit."

      Alix studied him for a moment. "I accept your apology. Is there anything else?"

      "I'd like to learn from you."

      Alix crossed his arms over his chest, and leaned back against the console. "Don't you mean, you want a chance to show me just how much better your human way of doing thing is over mine?"

      Jeremy opened his mouth to protest, then closed it, realizing that at the back of his mind had been that exact hope.

      "I thought so." He turned his back to Jeremy.

      "I do want to learn," Jeremy stated. "I want to be useful on the ship, and for that I need to know how things work."

      "You're the captain's mate. You don't need to do anything on the ship."

      Jeremy gritted his teeth. "I'm not some freeloader. I'm an engineer. I know I don't know how your systems work, but if you teach me, I can be useful."

      Alix looked over his shoulder, doubt on his face. "So you're going to be happy being one of the tech?"

      "If I can help, yes. I'm not afraid of work."

      Alix looked at the screen again, entered some information, nodded at the result. "Be here first thing tomorrow morning."

      * * * * *

      Jeremy put different types of meat on a plate, and added that to his tray that already contained a bowl with vegetables, then poured some hot liquid that smelled spicy, in a cup. With that he joined his friends. He was still trying a variety of the food they served. He'd tried enough of the meats to believe he would enjoy all of them, so long as the sauce they were prepared in wasn't too sweet, or too spicy. He was amazed at how varied the taste of the foods were. The fruits and vegetables were also all palatable, so long as they were on their own. Kelsirians had a very different idea of what deserts should taste like from him. He wouldn't say the baked good made with fruits were bad, but when they would mostly savory, instead of sweet, that was too much for him, so he stayed away from them. The one thing still hadn't found to his liking, was the selection of hot drinks.

      He missed coffee.

      "What's wrong with this one?" Thuruk asked, seeing the face Jeremy made.

      "I don't like the spice."

      Thuruk took the cup and had a sip. "Areeze, with a bit of Granom and Junn. Not my kind of thing either."

      Jufdet lifted his cup. "I love the stuff."

      "I wish you guys had coffee."

      "What's that?" Hosmelt asked.

      "A human drink," Thuruk replied. "It's quite bitter, has a hint of Junn and maybe dried Hildes leaves, and other tastes I couldn't place." The three other kelsirians stared at him. "Jeremy brought himself some while we were at the station, and I had a taste."

      "You can probably get one of the cook to make something like that," Hosmelt commented. "Might take some time to get it right, though."

      "I doubt it would ever be right," Jeremy sighed. "I wish I'd been able to bring some, I could brew it myself."

      "Then just order some," Hosmelt said, before spearing some meat with a claw and popping it in his mouth.

      "Somehow I doubt we'd be able to buy any," Danil said, "they would know it's for him, and they aren't happy with him."

      Thuruk and Jufdet exchanged a look. "There's always Xenial," Jufdet said.

      "Who's that?" Jeremy asked.

      "He works in procurement," Thuruk said. "His family owns multiple 'trading' ship."

      "They're smugglers," Jufdet clarified.

      "He claims there's nothing he can't get a claw on, if you can pay for it."

      "I don't have any money."

      "Talk to the captain," Thuruk said. "You're part of the crew, so you have a salary. Even if you become a civilian, now that Alix's back, you'll still have something for the work you did."

      Jeremy though it over for a moment. "Where can I find this Xenial?"

      * * * * *

      The procurement room wasn't very large, maybe enough room for three people. Immediately in front of the door was a large window, with rows and rows of shelves behind it. A kelsirian with fur, that was a swirl of brown and gray, was putting boxes on one of the shelves.

      "Hi," Jeremy said. The kelsirian turned toward him, and he realized she was a woman, with the only thing covering her breast being fur. He looked down at he counter. "I'm looking for someone, I was told I could find him here."

      "I'm sorry," she replied, "I don't understand your language. You must be the human we took in."

      Jeremy quickly looked up, to her face. "Yes, I am. I'm looking for Xenial. Right, you don't understand me."

      "Xenial!" she yelled, and a moment later another kelsirian joined them, this one had light orange fur with patches of white. "I think he said your name, do you know him? Do you speak human?"

      The newcomer looked Jeremy over. "No, I don't. But I wouldn't mind getting to know him better. I've never had sex with a human before."

      Jeremy blushed, and looked through his pockets, pulling out his datapad. It's was a kelsirian one, and he'd gotten Leiha to teach him how to read and write. He quickly typed on it. "I understand Kelsirian."

      "Oh, good." Xenial said. "Are you interested in having sex?"

      Jeremy stared at him. It took him a few times to manage to type what he wanted "no! I just need to talk to you."

      "That's too bad. What do you want to talk about?"

      "Can we talk in private?" Jeremy typed.

      Xenial looked to his colleague, Jeremy and then the datapad. "That conversation, is it urgent?" Jeremy shook his head. "Then how about I learn Human, and we can have it once I'm fluent."

      "A private conversation, huh?" the brown and gray kelsirian said. "Watch if he doesn't want to have sex, but doesn't want to admit it."

      Jeremy's eyes grew wide.

      "He understands you, remember?" Xenial said.

      She looked at Jeremy, ears folded back and quickly left.

      Xenial chuckled. "I'll find you in a few days, and we can talk business."

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